The Secret to International Expansion

One of the biggest challenges to international expansion is cultural integration and understanding. The nuances between one culture and another can be highly refined, but understanding your target market’s values and how they intersect with the core of your product or service is the pivotal point on which international success revolves.
In particular, this relates to products or services that are perceived to have a specific cultural background. For example, we might love the idea of importing traditional cuisine or entertainment, and we want a high level of authenticity.
However, if that product or service is simply transplanted from one market to another, it’s almost inevitably seen as either a novelty or not relatable. Suppose you can extrapolate the uniting and universal factor in what you do and identify that as your unique selling point (USP). In that case, the opportunities for expanding internationally are almost endless.

The universal appeal of light

As a case in point, we have been working with the Zigong Haitian Culture Co., Ltd more often known as Haitian Lantern who have worked around the globe on award-winning and visually spectacular lantern and light festivals that have their roots in the Chinese tradition for lanterns. The company creates interactive exhibits, immersive light installations, and magical, illuminated trails at different locations. It has hosted events from New York to Tokyo.
The concept of lanterns and theatrical lighting displays comes from a 2000-year-old Chinese tradition, where the Lantern Festival marks the end of the Chinese New Year. Historically, people would make their paper lanterns and write riddles inside before displaying them to the community. 
Sometimes they are referred to Lantern Festivals or Lightopia but whatever the description they have taken that tradition and combined it with 21st-century technology, but they have truly realised that the unifying factor is the celebration of light. Almost all cultures have a history of celebrating light in some fashion. India has Diwali (also known as the Festival of Lights). The Jewish festival of Hanukkah refers to being a Festival of Lights. Christmas places a heavy symbolism (both religious and decorative) on light, and on a secular level, people are universally drawn to light, especially in these dark winter months.  

International expansion and light festivals

When Haitian Lantern sought to expand their business concept beyond China itself, it was this recognition that its USP was about the universal appeal, the uniting factor, that it was able to channel a path to international expansion and global success with potential customers all over the world. Today their festivals remain rooted in the tradition from which they were born, and that element is there if people want to engage with it. Upcoming events include lanterns depicting Christmas scenes, Halloween and animals - to name a few - all to suit the local customer experience.
This approach gives the company enormous flexibility to appeal to the local target customer whilst remaining true to the company’s core values and purpose. It makes the opportunity for global expansion almost endless. Some countries, like Japan, where they share similar cultural reference points, can design experiences with that in mind. Still, in the UK, Middle East, USA and beyond, they can adapt accordingly.

Identifying your USP

Haitian Lantern has ascertained that its USP is not about culture but craftsmanship. The core is making an event spectacular for the local customer base and creating fun, tangible and intangible experiences. That’s why it is so successful. 
We can all learn from this. When we focus on global market expansion, two key things stand out as a point of focus:
  • The company’s USP and digging into the core of what that means. It’s not about the product, but what’s unique that can be celebrated and received by the local customer. 

  • Understanding the local customer, the local market, and what they value are excited by and how they want to spend their time.
At gigCMO, we work closely with businesses to create a strategic approach to business growth and international expansion to new markets by understanding the customer. We have written before about our research into critical factors for market expansion to help clients choose a pathway to new markets. We have also discussed the roles of PESTEL (political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal) and SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) when it comes to business development. 
If you would like to speak to us to discuss your business plan and its international potential, contact us any time or attend one of our regular Go To Market Global meetings.

Watch the Video

gigCMO Case Study on International Expansion

Interview with Lory Luo, the board member and a deputy manager of Haitian Lantern: